Jan 28 2018

Probiotics and your immune system during flu season

Published by at 3:32 pm under probiotic supplements

Probiotics, your immune system and flu season.
Taking probiotics helps boost your digestive health and your immune system which are powerful weapons against colds and flu.

What a flu season! Chances are that you, or someone you know has had the flu or been affected by it in some way. Schools have closed in an effort to quarantine sick students and disinfect classrooms. Hospitals are on high alert with staff wearing surgical masks to prevent them from catching it from patients. According to hospital officials at Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith, Arkansas, 60% of all recent emergency room cases have been flu related and they have set up a separate clinic just for flu sufferers.1*

Did you know?

Influenza and pneumonia are responsible for more than 57,000 US deaths annually.

Every year, approximately 5 to 20 percent of the US population comes down with the flu.

Flu related complications result in more than 200,000 hospitalizations. (2,3,4)*

Most of those hospitalized for flu infections are older adults. In a 2017 article from the Journal Frontiers of Immunology, influenza is described as “…a leading cause of catastrophic disability in older adults…” Unfortunately, for older folks, these infections, which occur mostly during the winter, can be life-threatening, with at least 90% of the flu-related deaths each year involving those over the age of 65. The older population is more susceptible as the flu virus can increase a person’s risk of developing secondary bacterial infections along with worsening preexisting medical conditions. Lengthy hospital stays also come with additional health risks. And while conventional medicine recommends older adults get the flu vaccine, it may not be as effective as people age. “…A very recent study found that the vaccine’s effectiveness decreases as the degree of frailty (as measured by the Frailty Index) increases. And while the vaccine works in 70%-90% of young adults, that number drops to 17%-53% in older adults…”.4*

So what can we do to safeguard ourselves during cold and flu season? Aside from completely isolating ourselves in order to not be exposed to others with the virus, is there anything we can do? And more importantly, does taking probiotics help? Yes! We know a healthy gut boosts our immune system and recent research confirms this. (2,4)*

First, there is a research from Dr. Sarah Brewer, GP, Medical Director of Healthspan and the author of Eat Well Stay Well. She found that probiotics, in combination with vitamins and minerals works best to help prevent cold and flu. “… “Probiotic bacteria have a natural immune boosting action, while micronutrients such as vitamin E, iron and selenium are needed to boost the production of antibodies and other infection-fighting chemicals. One study found that taking probiotics plus multivitamins and minerals significantly reduced the duration of common cold and ‘flu episodes by almost two days, compared with a similar group taking multivitamins and minerals alone. The researchers felt this was most likely through an effect on the activity of T-lymphocytes – the cells that regulate immune responses.”…” In a second study, she found that taking supplements which contained both probiotics and vitamins and minerals for at least three months during flu season, reduced the severity and incidence of common colds.2*

Another group of researchers determined that there are specific strains of probiotic bacteria that have been shown to stimulate the body’s production of IgA (immunoglobulin A), which protects the delicate mucous membranes, and ultimately helps prevent the virus replication cycle. These bacteria, which include L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus, B. lactis  and B. subtilis were found to  “…significantly reduce the risk of getting upper respiratory tract infections, including colds and flus…” And for those who did get sick, they helped to reduce the severity and duration of the illness. All of these strains are found in Body Biotics™ Bio-Identical SBO Probiotics Consortia™.4*

While most people treat colds and flu with medications designed to alleviate their symptoms, they don’t activate the body’s own immune response to fend off invading bacteria or viruses. This is where probiotics come in. Probiotics provide defense against the common cold and flu by activating the body’s own immune response.4*

The immune system makes proteins called antibodies that fight bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Scientists have shown that probiotic bacteria boost IgA, production which enhances immunity and blocks the virus replication cycle. Secretory IgA is found in mucous membranes and works as the body’s first line of defense within mucous membranes that line the nose and upper respiratory tract. When IgA levels are healthy, they can prevent cold and flu viruses from entering the body through the nasal mucous and respiratory tract…”4*

Researchers tested this probiotic blend on fighting infection brought on by cold and flu viruses in several placebo-controlled, human clinical trials. Two hundred and fifty volunteers were randomly selected to receive a placebo or the probiotics. Over a 90 day period, subjects reported each day on “…all diseases affecting their respiratory system, including cough, colds, bronchitis, or pneumonia, and how long they lasted. They also described their symptoms and the severity of the symptoms…”4*

They determined that taking the probiotic resulted in:

  • “…35%reduction in the number of colds (20 episodes vs. 31 episodes)
  • 22%reduction in cold duration (7 days vs. 6 days)
  • 39%reduction in cough duration (5 days vs. 7.3 days)
  • 25%reduction in the number of days of acute upper respiratory infections (6 days vs. 6.1 days)
  • 48%decrease in the number of flu episodes.
  • 55% decrease in the number of days with flu symptoms
  • 16cases of flu in the placebo group, compared to just 3 in the probiotic group…”4*

 One strain was identified by scientists for its intense immune stimulating effects among older adults who are at risk for respiratory infections, and that is B. Subtilis. Researchers have found that Bacillus Subtilis “…generates potent probiotics effects, including the production of antimicrobials, stimulation of the immune system, and overall enhancement of gut microflora…” B. Subtilis is unique in that it has a natural protective capsule that resists the stomach’s harsh acidic environment and allows it to make its way into the lower digestive tract, where it can stimulate intestinal mucosal secretions as well as in the respiratory tract. This is a special bacteria indeed!4*

 I hope you are doing as I have done this flu season and increased your intake of Body Biotics™ Bio-Identical SBO Probiotics Consortia™ to a therapeutic dose instead of a maintenance dose. It will help safeguard you as I’ve outlined here against this nasty flu season. Take good care of yourselves!

Healthiest wishes,






  1. https://www.usnews.com/new/best-states/arkansas/articles/2018-01-11/for-smith-hospital-sets-up-flu-clinic-to-ease-er-crowding
  2. https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/761946/cold-flu-treatment-probiotics
  3. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/flucold.htm
  4. http://www.lifeextension.com/Magazine/2018/2/Probiotics-Fight-Dangerous-Winter-Flu/Page-01

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